A Parent’s Guide to Teens’ New Technology
Do you remember lugging around diaper bags full of necessities, toys, and snacks? I was so thankful (and so were my shoulders) when I was finally able to stash that cumbersome sack away for good. When my children were babies, it felt like I was surrounded by so much stuff and it took monumental effort to keep everything organized and coordinated. As my family kissed goodbye the toddler years, I was so grateful to clear out all the excess “things”.
Fast forward 12 years ... now I have teenagers in the house.
Instead of binkies and receiving blankets, I am now buried under technology: mounds of cords, adapters, and all the devices they leave scattered everywhere. We have laptops for school, tablets for reading, cell phones for emergencies, ipods for music, game controllers for “thumb exercise”, and more.
Ironically, I am back to square one.
Once again, I find myself engulfed by my children’s paraphernalia and I am desperately trying to manage my teens’ technology. Outlet and charger shortages are manageable, but staying on top of the evolving Internet, Social Media, and apps that my teens favor is difficult.
Digital Natives By The Numbers
This generation has not had the privilege of knowing a world without a cell phone! They are very comfortable using the Internet and many can’t even recall the wonderful screech of dial-up Internet. Remember how liberating it was when we could finally get online in our homes?
Teens and technology seem to go hand in hand with each other. Here are a few statistics that demonstrate how ingrained technology is in our youth’s lives:
- The average teen sends more than 60 text messages a day.
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone.
- 47% of those with cell phones use a smartphone.
- One in four teens have a tablet computer.
- 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home.
- 71% of teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
8 Tips To Coordinate Teens’ New Technology
It takes concentrated parental effort to stay informed and up-to-date on the changing safety concerns and issues. We often hear how technology fosters cyberbullying, is bad for children’s development, or exposes our children to online predators. Here are a few tips to help manage a teen’s technology use:
Create a charge zone by the door. Designate an area to store all devices and plug them in to charge overnight. Hopefully, this will simplify your morning routines to get you out the door charged and ready for the day ahead.
Reconnect over family dinners. Encourage some down time and “no phone zones”. One way to foster family relationships is by reclaiming quality family time to talk and relax.
“Friend” your child online. Use their favored apps to keep in touch throughout the day. Send jokes or messages over Instagram, Snapchat, texts, or Skype with your child.
Know your child’s ID’s and passwords. Let your child know that you might check in on them from time to time. This might discourage poor choices and allow you to step in if a nasty situation develops.
Create “power down” hours. This is similar to a lights out policy. Your family will disconnect all electronics and take a break during the designated time.
Communicate clearly the rules and expectations of your teen’s technology use. If needed, create a contract or post your house rules. You and your teen will both be on the same page to prevent any misunderstandings. Be concise about the consequences of failing to handle the new responsibilities appropriately and follow through with the reprimand.
Review Social Media etiquette and model good online behaviors. Begin an ongoing conversation with your child that addresses online etiquette. Make sure your child understands the consequences of sexting and cyberbullying. Words have power and it is always a good idea to take a moment to reflect before posting a comment.
Incorporate a monitoring program to track a child’s Internet and cell phone usage. Teens frequent a wide array of apps, sites, and passwords. Individually remembering and monitoring each site can be cumbersome. Simply downloading a monitoring program will allow you to view all texts, online posts, and your child’s location at one convenient site.
The Connected Teen
Our children’s reliance on technology can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. Proactive measures can guide your teen’s technology use in the right direction. Teens might be able to communicate with friends and family at the swipe of a finger 24 hours a day, but these interactions can be positive and meaningful.
Meanwhile, I have come to terms with all of the cords and devices filling my home. Managing a teens’ technology doesn’t have to be negative. I am going to embrace this period in my life and reconnect with my children on both of our terms.